Tips for Going Back to School in Retirement

For many, retirement is all about looking after grandchildren, taking long vacations, and golfing. Today, older people are taking a different approach to life by planning ahead and accumulating skills prior to leaving their jobs.

aged adult keeping busy -

Education and Career for the Aging American

There is a growing demand for adult learning opportunities that universities and colleges are figuring out ways to tap into second careers. The United States Census Bureau predicted that the population of 65 years and older Americans would have surmounted to about 72 million by 2030. For the most time now, schools have paid little attention to this group.

The traditional educational system is set up to end during the 20s but adults are likely to work up until their 80s. The needs are shifting and newer models are being introduced that may have been obsolete ten years moving forward.

A study done by Merrill Lynch with Age Wave showed that about every three in every five retirees jump onto the opportunity to shift careers after retirement. Many see this as a time to pursue dreams that were not feasible during prior retirement.

There is another side to this rise in interest among older students. PNC Financial Services did a survey among retirees and found that half of the 70-year olds and below retired earlier than intended. Most of them were health-related issues while a small percentage falls on the layoffs or problems with their employers.

Some of the retirees keep working due to some needs or wants. However, in order for them to get hired, they needed to upgrade their skills. There is a need for educational options to sustain older individuals to get jobs after retirement.

Going Back To School? Things To Consider

If you’ve decided and wanted to go back to school, here are a few things you need to consider first:

Am I committed enough?

You will be spending time, effort, and yes, money to learn a new course. You need to have a clear motivation for WHY you need to go back to school. You need to be committed to pushing through with this pursuit. For a while, you need space and time to allocate for studying and cut down on other commitments.

If you still have a full-time job, you may want to commit a certain period for school work without sacrificing your current job. There are also online alternatives where you can earn a degree even through online courses.

Have I considered all my options?

In general, education is good. However, you need to consider the opportunity cost of time and resources allocated on pursuing an education. Is this something that could provide you a better life than the one you are living now?

You could be considering a business with that allocation. It could be that starting a business may help you do better than studying a new course.

Will this advance my career goals?

You really need to be clear about the path you’d like to be in before you pursue another course. Your motivation could be to take an additional course to learn a different skill set. Or it could be that you wanted to do an upgrade of your current skills.

Clarity brings the commitment to your goals. If you’re not clear where you’d want to go or what you’d want to do, it’s better to know what you’d want first before proceeding. Your time and effort may all be wasted if you don’t find fulfillment with your next career path.

What degree should I be pursuing?

Let’s take for example a teaching job. A Master’s degree will help you land a good teaching position in most colleges. But due to some corporate reorganization, layoffs may be inevitable. A Ph.D., in this case, may provide tenancy hence will keep layoffs at bay.

But if not, you may find yourself looking to start fresh with a different school. Some universities may offer online Master’s degree for specific industries. In this case, look for a market where those skills are needed. A word of caution: this type of approach may not be for everyone. If you’re looking for a career change, then this would be a good option.

For someone with a managerial position without a bachelor’s degree, it’s clear that the only way to go is to get a bachelor’s degree.

For someone who already possesses a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need to look into a certificate or a degree program which offers the best way to advance your skills. This may mean you need to specialize in certain niches to cater to a growing demand in your chosen industry. Or it could mean that you’ll need a more generalized skill set to keep your options open.

Would an online program be better?

Compared to its more traditional counterpart, this method lets you schedule your time and learn from the comforts of your home. Universities are now offering online courses to help those holding 9-5 jobs wanting to attain a degree.

While the perks of learning from home may be alluring, some adults may prefer a more traditional approach to learning. It’s hard to replicate the bonds and networking opportunities one could experience from meeting face-to-face. Some universities offer a hybrid of online and in-person training to remedy this.

Is it worth it?

In choosing a degree, make sure that you weigh both pros and cons. Consider also if the income will be sufficient to cover for loans should you want to enroll into one. If you’re already in your fifties or sixties, you may have a challenging time if you still have financial obligations such as your children’s tuition or mortgage. Consider if you needed to postpone and save up first.

It will take time and money on your end to secure another degree. But a shift in another industry may also provide better and more profitable options than your current one. Weigh if you will have a better career path that pays more to offset your expenses.

It’s best to do your own research prior committing to it. Private universities may cost more than those offered in a community college or state school. Depending on your choice of major, private universities may offer more value. Though you might be considering getting a full degree, alternative short courses may able to satisfy your needs at a much lesser cost. Workshop series and certificate programs are some of those alternatives.

Can I make enough time for socialization and family time?

Retirement may mean you have more time for yourself since your kids probably already have families of their own. But there could be other commitments and social activities that you’ve gotten used to that you may need to sacrifice to get a degree. Or it could be that you’re still holding a 9 to 5 job that may demand long working hours. You may need to talk with your spouse about your desire to go back to school to make room for adjustments.

Careful planning and time management are essential to your success. You could be finding yourself working eight hours, two hours doing school assignments, and one-hour taking classes. If not managed properly, you may not perform well and drop out — at a heftier cost at that.

What are my financing options?

Student loans are not your only options. If you planned this well, you probably saved money for your tuition and will finish the degree without running any risks of default payments.

However, retirees may look into scholarships for veterans to keep your educational expense low. If you’re still working, you can ask your employer if they give tuition reimbursement programs.

Going Back to School in Retirement: The Basics

So you’ve finally placed your house in order and finances set. It’s time to get back to school following these simple tips.

Ask fellow retirees who went back to school.

It could be that you have fellow retirees who also went back to school looking for ‘better pastures’ or finding fulfillment. There’s a better chance they could share some of their experiences and how they went about managing time. Furthermore, they are likely to give points about a specific course they took that may be of some interest to you.

Plan your activities ahead of time.

Planning is essential to help you get a step ahead of a ‘stressful week’. If you’re still holding a full-time job, you need to balance your time to work, study, and socialize. You’d want to create a plan that organizes when and how you spend it. This may mean cutting back some commitments until such time you graduate from it. A good time to set your priorities fresh for the week is during the weekends when you have the space to be alone and think thoroughly.

Get in touch with the program faculty.

While speaking to admissions advisor is one step prior to enrollment, speaking with the program faculty will help you get more details about your desired program. They are more adept about the flows, complexities, and capacities needed for the students to succeed in the program. It could be a course entirely different from the field you’re interested in so discussing this with the program faculty could set things in proper perspective.

Ask for a sample syllabus

This is the outline of the general topics that will be tackled throughout the course. From here you can tell the quality of the course and how you need to approach it. Some topics you may be familiar with. A syllabus also allows you to have adequate time to research about certain topics to help study ahead so the transition will be easier compared when you still have zero knowledge.

Keep it all in balance.

Work-life balance is only achieved by dedicating the same amount of energy to both. In the case where you’re still transitioning to retirement but still employed, you need to be fully attentive when you’re working. Your manager will feel better about the decision and may even be more supportive if you’re still as productive.

Do an inventory of your skills.

Years of experience may have already earned you some valuable skills along the way. This will include soft skills. Employers are looking for adaptability, strong work ethics, and ability to work with others with different cultures and backgrounds. Armed with your knowledge, having a good set of soft skills will make the transition easier for your next employment. Employers are always looking for upbeat and sociable individuals equipped with knowledge.

If you think you still needed tweaking in this department, it may help to take some time to volunteer in a non-profit organization.

Choose the closest and most affordable.

While it may make sense to enroll in a prestigious school, you need to be practical with decisions. It is true that most private schools offer a better education. But if that school is located miles away from where you live (and work), location, it would be an impractical decision. You need to spend wisely on other expenses especially if these educational courses are not sponsored.

In-demand Jobs for Seniors After Retirement

If you’re highly skilled, chances are you’ll be hired–regardless of you being on retirement age.  Here are some jobs for seniors looking to be employed:


If you’re looking for a fulfilling career in helping children with their education, go for a teaching job. This is a popular occupation predominantly among older women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that there would be a stronger demand of 8% by the end of 2026. The pay varies but it’s usually pegged between $56,900 (elementary school) to $59,170 (high school).

College instructor

You may have already accumulated a rich source of experience from the industry you worked in. This would make a good launching pad for a retirement job. Predominantly male, this job looks into a salary earning of $76,000 per annum.

Nursing jobs

Many retired women are opting for healthcare as a second career option. Personal care aids (5.2%), registered nurses (4.6%), and home health aides (2.8%) are some of the options you can choose from. Registered nurses have the highest paid salary at $70,000 per annum on average.

Financial services

Financial managers are responsible for tracking the growth and finances of a company. They also help out creating a strategy to bring profits high, cutting down cost, and keeping the company’s financial condition healthy. On average, individuals taking jobs in the financial sector earn an average of $125,080 per annum. If you’re considering taking this as a second career option, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree with at least five years’ experience in this filed. Accountants and auditors earn roughly around $69,350 per annum. You may also want to take on seasonal projects and work as tax preparers.

Ready to take on a new challenge in your retirement age? Weigh your options, evaluate your capacity, and go back to school. It’s never too late to make your education and career dreams happen.

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